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Using chemical names as search terms



The conventions for naming chemical compounds are very complex and difficult to understand. A given molecule might have dozens of different names. Generic or trivial names, trade names, and any number of systematic names such as IUPAC-style names, may be used throughout the literature, causing confusion. The same confusion can complicate a literature search. As a general rule, it's best to avoid using a chemical name as a search term, unless the name is almost universally recognized and widely used (and even if it is you'll still miss some articles).

Bisphenol-A is an organic molecule often referred to in both the scientific and popular media. Its structure looks like this:

b. p. a.

Its CA Index Name (the official name assigned to the structure according to Chemical Abstracts nomenclature rules) is

Phenol, 4,4'-(1-methylethylidene)bis-
which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue! It's easy to see why people would rarely use this name in conversation, media, or even in a technical paper. So Bisphenol-A or BPA are more often used as verbal shorthand for this compound.

Fortunately, Chemical Abstracts Service provides a good alternative to names with the CAS Registry Number, which stands in as an unambiguous search term in many kinds of scientific databases.

The Registry Number for BPA is 80-05-7. Use this number instead of its name when you search in a chemical database such as SciFinder, and you'll get much better results.

More information on finding CAS Registry Numbers...

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